Halong Bay is a huge bay in which more than 3,000 jagged limestone islands spectacular optorenen from the sea, are often 50 to 100 meters high rocky peaks. At its foot, one finds beaches here and there, some islands are larger and inhabited. The beautiful bay with its karst rocks underwent for 20 million years, a major development under the influence of the humid tropical climate and eroded by strong winds and waves. This UNESCO recognized site was gratefully used as a backdrop for several films, it is one of the top tourist destinations in Vietnam.
At 8:00 am we are picked up in the morning at our hotel for the 3 ½ hour trip to Halong Bay. We are curious if the promises made this time will come, already familiar with the Vietnamese style sales …
A minibus takes us to the town of Halong City on the outskirts of Halong Bay, where most of the tourist boats depart. We are only six people, as we were promised. Our guide Tiger talks underway endlessly about things he sees along the way, life in Vietnam and more in a special way in his village, what we can expect from this trip … He really is a spraakwater, who also can tell captivating.
On the waterfront are all within large wooden barges with a typical form. It is here a veritable cauldron of boats lay side by side to let passengers get on … it promises. Others are smaller and are used only for sailing, they usually carry larger groups of people who spend the night in a hotel on an island nearby. Our boat is one of the larger ones, which also are luxury cabins to stay overnight. We find immediately aboard the central table in the living room, which is nicely covered for six people. But first we are given a luxury cabin, which also has a private balcony.
Once we join the crowds still falls sail away from the port, as we had predicted us. After all it is winter season and this would decrease the tourism greatly. The boats are very spread out and actually they are photogenic when they pass between the rocks … The spectacle is huge, the mist that hangs here does not really detract from the view, makes it rather mysterious. We can not compare this, perhaps more impressive it is when the sun and blue skies are present.
When we visit Hang Sung Soi, a large limestone cave in one of the rocky islands, we note once again the mass of people who dwell here. It is queuing on the path through the cave … this we have never experienced. This cave is one of the nicer ones we’ve visited so far in Asia, but it is certainly not comparable to our wonderful Belgian caves.
Further on we go kayaking on a lagoon, a sort of inland lake in one of the larger rocks, Hang Luong. First we paddle through a cave tunnel to get there and be surprised by a group of monkeys who welcome us. They play on the vertical rock walls, unbelievable that they do not fall.
Soon we can enjoy a beautiful sunset and then we will anchor in a quiet cove for dinner and overnight. It is a pleasant evening, it clicks well among our little group.
Tiger presents us with what used to stand so that we can make a number of visits to the crowds. Before its delicious breakfast we climb the 425 steps to the top of Titop island, from where we have a nice view of the sunrise over the spectacular bay … and we enjoy the peace, we’re here alone.
On the way back we visit a pearl farm, with us the whole process of pearl culture is shown. Afterwards we convinced … real pearls are not for sale!
The beads are put in the oysters, after which they are covered with a layer of naturally formed pearl. Completely real pearls, which originated in an oyster, more and more rare and therefore priceless naturally, we are told. Again we see no other tourists.
We still sail past fishing villages on stilts and relax on the ship’s deck while returning along an alternative route to Halong City, where our cruise ends with a lunch at a restaurant.
A minibus takes us back to our hotel in Hanoi. We are very satisfied with the organization of our trip, it was a bit short, but the important thing is that we could see the beautiful rock formations at sea … and it there were a mass.